Thursday, December 9, 2010
Studies find walk in the woods really is good for us
I really like walking in the woods, and so does Sam, our dog, and I can vouch that that there is something therapeutic about the experience.
Now medical research has proven the connection. Walking in the woods is more beneficial to our minds and bodies than just walking along the road or street or in a gym.
John Swartzenberg, MD, chair of the editorial board of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, reports in the December issue that "green exercise" pays big dividends.
Tests have shown people have better memory and attention when hiking in the woods compared to indoors. Hiking lowers stress, blood pressure and heart rate and improves immune functions better than does exercising at a gym.
Researchers also found a "third-day effect" where after a few days of hiking people attain a special stage of relaxation and mindfulness.
We've seen something similar with our guests at Bow Narrows Camp. It was my father, Don, who noticed that people who come fishing for just three days, rather than a week, never have a very good time. He was right. As proof of this, three-dayers almost never return to camp whereas the vast majority of week-trippers do. Once we realized what was going on we started not taking the three-day guests. After all, we want people to enjoy themselves.
Although the medical studies didn't analyze fishing trips for their benefits, I think the situation is the same. When we're off in the woods on a fishing trip we reach a state of deep relaxation. No doubt some of this is because we're out of range of cell phones and e-mails. But there's more to it than that. It really does seem to come from the fact we are physically outdoors.
After a day or two of of not hearing street noise, we become absorbed in the natural sights and sounds around us. The calls of birds and the whistling of the wind through the pines occupies our attention and our thoughts turn to what a great world this still is.
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